New Goal: Otium Life

Dolce Far Niente

Photo by kodachrome65 — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

Do you want a life in balance? You need otium.

As posted this week in KArts Culture News, an exhibition in Ravenna highlights a significant turning point in ancient home design — and a fulfilled life.

“Otium: The Art of Living in the Roman House of the Imperial Age” documents the movement to incorporating walls with painted landscapes, floors with mosaic floors, as well as heated baths and swimming pools for a new kind of home. A home of otium.

Otium implies living a life with ease, peace, quiet, repose, free time, or in one wonderful translation, holy leisure.

The word negotiate, from the Latin ‘negotium’ incorporates the opposite of otium — literally ‘non-otium’. Negotiosity is a constant occupation in business affairs. Is that your life?

Roman life was attempting to incorporate an honorable way to have some freedom from daily business, from involvement in the grinding tasks of administration. Horace argued for otium to be a more respectable value than money or power.

A nice use of otium is as the title of the online prose magazine out of the writing program at the University of Chicago: to connect play with work, pleasure with critical thinking.

So, let us all praise otium: ‘otium cum dignitate’ or leisure with dignity.

If otium worked for Cicero, Horace, and Plautus, surely otium can work for us.

- Bill Reichblum

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